Short Story Saturday: The Optimist…

201504600 greenhouses

Greenhouses [Photo from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.]

For the last few Saturdays, we’ve been posting some tales by local writer, Charles Wilson. He takes a nugget of local color and adds some imagination (maybe a lot of imagination–you be the judge.) Before this series, we hadn’t posted fiction for a long time (since the well-received SoHumBorn stories–go here to check them out.) Let us know what you think about adding a touch of invention to the world of fact. If you have a story you would like to submit, send it to

What kind of goddamned moon-calf moron did I father anyway? You worked half the year for nothing? Twice? Didn’t the first time teach you anything?”

We were sitting in a Café in Garberville and everyone in the place was trying to be inconspicuous while watching our little drama. At the volume my old man was speaking the cooks in the kitchen must have heard him clearly. Hell, so could passing traffic for that matter!

I kept my head down and kept eating my burger and fries. I was famished and no matter how loud the old man was my stomach had been shouting louder. I had spent the last of my cash stash a few weeks ago and had been living on thin air, bad coffee, and whatever leftovers I could beg from the crazy bitch I had been working for. And that was damn few! I wasn’t exactly overweight when I stepped off the grease puppy last spring and after a summer of hard work and not enough calories I was getting pretty lean. And hungry! So I kept packing the food in while Dad continued to entertain the café with his tirade. He would run down eventually. And if I had to eat crow along with the burger so be it.


Last year I had connected with someone who described themselves as an organic farmer of medical marijuana via Craigslist. I should have remembered the cartoon I had seen of 2 dogs in front of a computer. One is saying to the other “on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog”.

He was a marijuana farmer all right but far from being organic he was pragmatic. If it worked, if it was easier/cheaper, then he did it. Fuck the locals, fuck the environment, fuck the cops, the name of his game was profit pure and simple. I should have said my farewell  right at the beginning and gone back home but the prospect of having a few pounds to sell kept me working. Then one early September morning a convoy of vehicles led by a black and white SUV drove up the dirt road to the scene, I took one look and was OUTTA THERE. The nearest forest was about 80 yards away and I probably broke records getting to it. I circled the clearing staying in the woods till I was on the side opposite where I entered. The cops weren’t that interested in me though, they had bigger fish to fry. Some were tearing the plastic off the hoop houses and had started cutting down plants with a chainsaw while others had entered the cabin and it looked like they were taking the place apart looking for evidence. My former employer always slept in and let me do the morning chores. His laziness meant he was still in the shower when the first cops charged in. He was led out, dripping wet, wearing nothing but handcuffs, a towel, and a look of panic.

After the bust was done and all the cops were gone I walked back out of the woods, looked at the wreckage inside the cabin. Almost everything Robbie owned was now in a pile on the floor. It looked like they worked hard to trash the place and did a good job of it.

So I called the parents, listened to the harangue, and the next afternoon met my old man in front of the gas station in town. It had taken me the better part of the day to hitch there and I had slept behind a building in Redway that night only to be awakened by a small black and white dog taking a shit about 3 feet from my head. When it was done, it started barking at me till an old man came round the corner of the building and told me to clear out. “Sorry, pal, but this is a business, not a bedroom.” He called the dog and after another chorus of barks she trotted back to him and together they disappeared around the corner and into the building. I spent the day sitting in front of the gas station watching people come and go. Most of them seemed unable to see me. The rest seemed to think I was just another pile of shit on the sidewalk. To be honest that’s how I felt too!

Dad showed up about 4 pm, spotted me, honked, rolled into the station and started to fill his car. I dragged my duffel bag over to the car and threw it into the back seat, lowered myself into the passenger seat with a sigh and was ready for the ride home. I could have done without the lecture but…


The following spring I was enrolled at Foothill College and flipping burgers for pocket money. Finals were just a month away when I got the email from an old friend, Mark Halloway. He was on a piece of land an hour from Redway doing what people in that area seemed to do for money. Grow it! He said a neighbor had been bugging him to become her partner but he had enough to deal with already. It might be an opportunity for me if I wanted to come north and work with her. She promised half to whoever could help her grow her crop.

That sounded good to me! I didn’t really want to go to school or work. Those were conditions the parents set if I wanted to continue living under their roof. If I could grow a few pounds of pot I could sell it off at street prices and be a successful entrepreneur. The American dream, right?


A week later I was in SoHum leaving behind the golden arches, 14 credits of almost finished college courses and 2 very angry parents. I planned to show them I could be a success without all their bullshit.

Mark introduced me to his neighbor Divine. If there was ever a misnomer she embodied it! She was a husk of a woman with most of the vitality burned out of her by the furnace of her meth addiction. She said she was a very sick woman and looked it. She gratefully promised me half the crop if I became her partner, she was too sick to do the work but had the greenhouses and land. It looked like a great deal! Mark gave me and my gear a lift to her place. I set myself up a camp under some madrone trees and started to work.

Initially the old bat seemed genuinely grateful and friendly. She invited me to her house for coffee in the mornings. She even offered me some crank but I refused that invitation. Her looks made a good advertisement for drug abuse prevention!

We drove in her truck to the local garden supply and I loaded hundreds of pounds of soil amendments into the back of it. She peeled off a bunch of 20s from a roll in her purse to pay for it all then drove our haul back to her place. That’s when my work really started. It continued all summer as I worked to keep the plants watered daily and fertilized every 2 weeks. Sometime around midsummer the invitations for morning coffee stopped and when I showed up for a cup I was told to buy my own damn coffee. “Whatever, you old bitch” I thought and started to go without. Coffee is expensive and I already realized food was my biggest need. Requests for a loan from her to improve my diet was answered by an outraged croak of refusal. “You’ll get paid plenty when the crop comes in” It was like a line she had rehearsed and used any time she thought I was going to ask for an advance or even a cup of coffee now. My pal Mark said he had no idea she was that selfish and slipped me a couple hundred now and then when I asked him otherwise I would have starved.

I was hitching to town one morning to buy some grub when an old pickup truck stopped to give me a ride. A small black and white dog was barking furiously inside, it looked familiar. So did the driver.

Don’t mind her, she’ll shut up as soon as you get in” the old guy spoke as he leaned over and opened the door. In fact she shut up as soon as the door swung open. I thanked him, slid in, closed the door, and away we went.

I can get you to Redway. We’re going to work”

That was when it hit me, this was the same pair that rousted me last September after the bust. He seemed friendly enough, so did the dog once I was in her truck so I started to tell him about my summers “job”. And about my employer’s sudden change of personality.

You’re working for that nut? You’ll never see ounce one! She’s a liar and goes through young guys like you every year. Sometimes 2 or 3 a season. I’m amazed she’s still alive she’s burned so many people. Cut your losses and find another employer is my advice.”

She needs me to keep the crop watered and healthy. She may be weird but I think I’ll be OK”

I don’t but it’s your choice. Good luck-you’ll need it pal!”

She had me sleeping next to the greenhouses when the crop started to flower out. “I don’t want to get ripped off so you stay here and guard things.” And that was where I was when I awakened in the dark with a boot prodding my side and a gun pointed at my head.

Hit the road asshole! The lady says you’re a thief!”

Say what? I’m no fucking thief! I’m working for her for Jah’s sake. What the hell are you talking about?”

The lady says you’re a ripoff and wants you outta here. She’s paid me to get rid of you so it’s pack it up or you might just disappear. That happens to people around here sometimes.”

I didn’t know what kind of gun he was holding but I knew he sounded very serious so I started to gather my stuff in the dark.

Forget that shit now buddy boy, it’s time to start walking or start digging a big hole.”


People are laughing now and Dad is not about to run down and actually eat his lunch soon.

I wonder if McDonalds is hiring…

Previous Short Stories:



  • The dark side continues…

  • Pretty good short story. Almost sounds true. I wonder how many unhappy stories are out there in the “forest of broken dreams”.

  • At least the part about the dog taking a shit three feet from his sleeping head was entertaining.

  • good read…Not sure if that was all fiction or not but that sounds like something that could happen/ or did happen around here for sure.

  • This one seemed to
    me the most realistic of all of his.

  • Sounds like Patty the tweaker!

  • Another great short. I’d say all of his stories are completely realistic for this neck of the woods.

  • Thank you again for the stories.

  • I have seen this happen a lot talk is cheap trust me the game is like a rototiller to any nice guys .B.S. is king so are the heavy use of drugs to live there lifestyles of the corrupt and greedy .They will promise the world but in the end only deliver the garbage …

  • Lost Croat Outburst

    Good story. It happens. But neither I nor any of my associates screwed our trimmers. We usually fed them and bought beer up to a point. I packed my .357 magnum as security for the group, never as a threat. Many of the surprise home-invasion rip-offs are the result of clippers who worked for the owners previously and return as thieves. $100 per pound of trimmed bud, and that was back in the day. Anyone willing to actually work (gasp) could do two pounds a day easily, more with high-end bud. Those were the days, my friend, I thought they would never end. The hills crawling with deer, growing the power plant, back from Vietnam, young and strong and free. In SoHum. Wow. Sometimes I felt like Simon Kenton on the Scioto River. Just the weed, I know, but there you go.

  • Pingback: SHORT STORY SATURDAY: Going to Pot | Redheaded Blackbelt

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